Justice Minister Shaked: Governance Must Return to the People's Control

Governance should be in the hands of the people and their elected officials, not the judiciary, new justice minister tells Israeli bar.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. Credit: AFP
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

New Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked responded to critics of her legal philosophy on Monday, a day after officially stepping into her position in the cabinet.

Addressing the Israel Bar Association conference, Shaked made her case against judicial activism and for strengthening the legislative at the expensive of the judiciary, saying the separation of powers in Israel has been dangerously eroded.

"In recent years it seems a large part of the public has been under the impression that this outlook (of judicial restraint) has diminished. It seems decision making – governance – is no longer under the control of the people – their elected officials in the Knesset – but is held by the judiciary. The issue is at the heart of a contentious public debate," Shaked said.

She blasted her critics for failing to accept that the issue was still being disputed, and in a jab to naysayers, said that "those objecting to this process of the erosion of powers, myself included, are labeled as 'sons of darkness', while those who support disenfranchising the public from their right to decide through their elected officials are labeled the 'sons of light'.

"I reject this division and reject those characterizations," said a defiant Shaked.

Before closing her speech, the incoming minister vowed to implement a positive change in her minister, saying "I enter this important position with awe and reverence, with humility and modesty, and with a desire to improve. Changes will be made, but they will be done with the widest possible agreement and sensitivity, following an in-depth learning process."

Shaked also commented on a labor dispute with state prosecutors, saying that she would meet the relevant parties and work to resolve the crisis.

Judicial review of Knesset-passed legislation is not native to the Israeli system. Defenders of the Supreme Court claim that it has used its power of judicial review sparingly, while detractors say it is misused to fight legally passed legislation outside of the Knesset, like in the contentious case of the state's attempt to jail and deport African asylum seekers.

Shaked is considered a particularly fierce critic of the current composition of the Supreme Court and its intervention — when sitting as the High Court of Justice, which functions as Israel’s constitutional court — in the work of the legislative branch. In the course of the coalition negotiations she submitted six bills that would make changes to the judicial system. One would give politicians more seats on the Judicial Appointments Committee, which would allow the political leadership to impose its choice of judges even if the Supreme Court justices on the panel oppose the appointment.

Shaked is also considered the driving force in the Knesset behind a bill that would enable the Knesset to ratify laws the High Court had struck down on the grounds that they violated the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom.

Jonathan Lis contributed to this report

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